Posted by: Harold Knight | 08/24/2010

LGBT Rights Trampled by Greg Gutfeld

In 1965 the Supreme Court, in Griswold v. Connecticut, ruled unconstitutional a Connecticut law prohibiting the use of contraceptives, by married couples. The court ruled that the law violated the right to privacy; that is, the private decision of a married couple to use a condom is none of the government’s business (1).  In a dissent Justice Hugo Black argued that nowhere does the Constitution guarantee the right to privacy.

For me, it’s a good thing the court voted to overturn the Connecticut law. Just two years later I got married, and, from the beginning of our marriage, my wife and I used birth control. (It is a fearsome prospect that the current Supreme Court, guided by Antonin Scalia, with its so-called “strict constructionist” bent, will agree at some point with Justice Black and overturn the ruling of Griswold.)

I am glad that for the seven years we were married my late ex-wife and I were not engaged in unconstitutional activity.

I did, however, regularly engage in other unconstitutional activity until 2003. That is the year (thirty-eight years after it declared that married couples have the right to privacy) the Supreme Court, in Lawrence v. Texas, finally struck down as unconstitutional the Texas law against sodomy. Only seventeen years before, in Bowers v. Hardwick, the court refused to strike down the Georgia law against sodomy, agreeing in its opinion with Justice Black that there is no constitutional right to sexual privacy. Not only did the Constitution not guarantee sexual privacy, Chief Justice Burger said in his concurring opinion, “To hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching.”

By all means, let’s not cast aside millennia of moral teaching (note my sarcasm).

While I was married (semi-obligatory for gay men who, like me, were born before 1950—at least those of us who were too frightened or unimaginative to break free from the [mostly] religious teachings in which we were raised), the first great volley was fired in the gay rights movement on June 27, 1969. That night a group of about 400 LGBT folk “rioted” at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the West Village in Manhattan.

I well remember the conflicted emotions that rose up in me that day; those feelings were associated with the idea that perhaps  I might some day be able fully to take my place in society—and not have to lead a double life. The prospect of true freedom made me uneasy. Some of those feelings remain unresolved to the present day. Our struggle for full rights is not over. The reasons are obvious to anyone who does not live in a cave in a forest with no internet or TV or contact with society.

Let’s not cast aside millennia of moral teaching (note again my sarcasm).

The Stonewall Inn is approximately 1.5 miles from 45-47 Park Place in New York. It might as well be 1.5 million miles in the thinking of some LGBT persons.

Yesterday I received an email from a gay friend of my generation who is a role model and friend to a large segment of the gay community in Dallas. He is a professor retired from a prestigious university. The email was a transcript of the TV show of a well-known arch-conservative commentator in which he proposes building a gay bar next to the Muslim Community Center at 45-47Park Place—to reach out to gay Muslims. This is, I assume, supposed to be funny.

It is not.

Let’s not cast aside millennia of teaching bigotry (this is not sarcasm; it is too painful to be sarcastic).

The gay men who are passing this email on to each other around the country suppose they are using their own open-mindedness and the advances in gay rights in this country to prod Muslims into seeing the error of their supposed backward ways (I sincerely hope that’s the noble purpose, and not simple expression of xenophobia). This attempt at humor on the surface is intended to use the liberation of gay Americans to make fun of the supposed anti-gay rigidity of Islam.

That, however, is not what Greg Gutfield’s humor is about. He uses humor denigrating gays—homophobic slander—to create anti-Muslim humor. Who, exactly, is the butt (pun intended) of the “joke” here: he suggests naming the bar “The Sphinx-ter,” or “Weapons of Ass Destruction,” or the “Homo-side Bomber?” Would his jokes be “funny” if they didn’t rely on making fun of gays’ (ridiculous) sexual practices in order to link them semantically and rhetorically with anti-Muslim sentiment? Of course not.

[Note the great humor and laughter at the expense of gay men takes place in a conversation with Glenn Beck, his fellow arch-conservative pundit on Fox News, who, a month ago, declared that churches clamoring for “social justice” are Marxists in disguise. That certainly includes the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, the large predominantly gay church which leads the way in “social justice” causes. The LGBT determination to be guaranteed the right to marry is a “social justice” issue. ]

This humor is gutter-level junior-high-school bodily-function humor—but bodily functions that are “funny” only because they apply to the (ridiculous) sexual practices of gay men.

That this destructive language is dangerously insidious is clear because the gays at whose expense the jokes are made do not even see what’s happening. One would hope that, having been engaged in a struggle so lengthy and intense (and continuing) for their own acceptance and equality, the LGBT community would be able to understand that “racism and sexism [homophobia and xenophobia], when enabled in any way (. . . like name-calling and ethnic- or gender-centered slander), are steeped in attitudes and beliefs that are uniquely transferable by the spoken word” (2).

One would hope LGBT persons could see and understand the physical and moral proximity of the Stonewall Inn and 45-47 Park Place in New York. My personal struggle to claim my place in society, my freedom simply to be myself, began more than a half-century ago. It is not yet finished. Nor is the struggle of any LGBT person. I, for one, fear and resent the twisted use of my struggle for justice to provide rhetorical ammunition with which to deny justice to any other group of people.

“To hold that the act of [believing in Islam] is somehow protected as a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching.” That’s what this is about. LGBT persons who cannot see that the civil rights, the “unalienable rights” of all persons—gay, straight, Muslim, Christian, atheist, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian—are at stake in the manufactured controversy over the building of an Islamic Community Center at Park Place in New York have simply forgotten that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, a mere twenty-four years ago, could write with impunity that guaranteeing us the right to make love would violate millennia of moral teaching.

If we do not protect the rights of all Americans, all of the rights of ALL Americans,

. . . if first amendment rights are not to be demoted to privileges to which only the dominant culture has access, then invisible minorities that are subject to widespread social discrimination will have to be guaranteed protection from those forces which maintain them in their position of invisibility (3).

When Richard Mohr wrote that passage, we were less than twenty years into the gay rights movement. He spoke for us. We knew (know) that invisible minorities will have to be guaranteed protection. LGBT persons cannot allow anyone to appropriate our struggle in order to advocate discrimination against other minorities and curtail their protection.
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(1) “Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965).” Cases and Codes. FindLaw.com. 2010. Web. 23 Aug 2010.
(2) Staples, Jeanine M. “Encouraging Agitation: Teaching Teacher Candidates to Confront Words that Wound.” Teacher Education Quarterly 37.1 (Winter 2010): 53+.
(3) Mohr, Richard D. Gays/Justice: a Study of Ethics, Society, and Law. New York: Columbia U Press, 1988 (171).

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